1 - Irish History
It gives me great pleasure to have been invited to add
some words at the beginning of this splendid compendium of
reminiscences. Here we meet on intimate terms members of E Company
of the 5th (Londonderry) Battalion of the fearless
Ulster Defence Regiment.
you can think as if you are a UDR man or woman, as you read how a
nervous recruit feels on his first arrival, or a Lance Corporal
newly promoted when giving his first orders, a war-weary Patrol
Commander in the crisis of an ambush or a Plotter in the Operations
It was a neighbour of mine a regular soldier, not
given to compliments, who described the UDR as the bravest men and
women in the whole army. Only they braved the risk of sudden
personal attack, all day every day: the pistol shot in the back,
the sniper’s bullet from afar, the car exploding underfoot or
their abduction followed by a kangaroo court and murder. We were
young; most of us, and at the worst times lived from day to day.
Perhaps only Ulstermen could have stood the strain and retained
their courage and inherent good nature year after year.
Tradition and the feeling that ‘my father did it
before me’ was a big help. The Ulster Special Constabulary and
The Ulster Home Guard were our honourable forbearers.
Going back a bit further we are direct descendants of
the Londonderry Light Infantry, a fine Militia who went to camp at
Magilligan just as we did. My
cousin James Clark of Largantogher in Maghera was appointed
Commanding Officer of that militia in the 1850’s.
This book is the very stuff of the Regiment of which
we all became so fond and proud. Through it runs the unbreakable
thread of the comradeship and mutual trust, which built up quickly
in the face of danger.
I recommend this book strongly to any historian.
1 - Irish History
work is divided into three parts. The first part contains six
chapters that discuss the origins of
the internal dissent and the tradition of the militias in
Northern Ireland. The second part contains four chapters covering
the formation of E Company 5 UDR in 1970 and its evolution until
the year 2007. The final part of this work focuses on the
administrative, training and operational aspects of E Company
from 1970 until 2007. The final chapter
will consider the question, ‘Was E Company
5 UDR the last Coleraine Militia?’
The Protestant settlers of Coleraine town were required to
raise militias and use garrisoned troops for their protection
when they first emigrated to Coleraine from Scotland and England
in 1610. The successful defence of the town to many of the
recorded 17th and 18th Century attacks can
be attributed to the strength of the garrisoned troops and the
locally raised militias. The intermittent raising of the militias
continued on through the 19th and 20th
Centuries to the present. With the latest political changes and
relative peace, E Company 5th (Co Londonderry)
Battalion The Ulster Defence Regiment was probably the last
Despite the continuing influence of Irish history on the
present, children in Northern Ireland have never been adequately
taught Irish history. Roman Catholic schoolchildren are taught
Irish history from a nationalist perspective (O’Doherty, p17)
and Protestant schoolchildren are rarely taught the subject at
A basic knowledge of Irish and Ulster’s history would
have helped people to understand the three decades of terrorism
they endured from 1969 onwards. Perhaps, the knowledge would have
encouraged a healthy debate and more mutual understanding between
the two main communities in Northern Ireland.
the last glacial period in 8,000 BC Ulster was settled for the
first time around 6,500 BC. This era was known as either the
Mesolithic Period or Middle Stone Age. These early settlers were
constantly on the move, sustaining themselves by hunting, fishing
and gathering edible plants. As the food supply in one area was
depleted, they would move on to another area (Mullin, 1976 p9).
Six of the earliest areas of settlement in Ireland have
now been identified. One of these is known as Mountsandel. It
lies a mile south of Coleraine town on the banks of the River
Bann. During this and later periods the River Bann was used as a
major highway into the centre of Ulster (Patterson, 2007).
evidence and artefacts from this area have indicated that the
early settlers had a rich variety of flora and fauna available as
Photo 2. View of Castleroe and The Cutts from Mountsandel
next cultural transition in Ulster occurred around 4,000 BC. This
era was known as the Neolithic Period or New Stone Age. There was
a gradual move from collecting to producing foodstuffs as the
settlers learned to domesticate their livestock and cultivate the
edible plants. The evidence for the presence of these people in
Ulster exists in the form of stone artefacts and monuments
throughout the east and mid-Ulster areas. Within the Coleraine
area this includes: the Druid’s Altar at Magheraboy, the White
Wife at Carnalridge and the Daff Stone at Moneydig.
These early farmers would select the best ground to grow
their crops and graze their livestock. When the soil was
exhausted the farmers destroyed vast tracts of forest in order to
create more fertile land.
is a mixture of ten per cent tin and ninety per cent copper.
In Ireland the gradual transition from the New Stone Age
to the Bronze Age started in 2,000 BC. Bronze was used to produce
both domestic and martial tools such as axes, knives, swords and
jewellery. Many of these items were found during the River Bann
drainage schemes (Patterson, 2007).
To the detriment of the Bronze Age farmers the climate
began to change in the 6th Century BC. This change was
instrumental in restoring the denuded forests, creating the peat
bogs and also destroyed the evidence of earlier human behaviour
Iron Age also started in the 6th Century BC and ended
in the 5th Century AD. Many of the ring forts located
within the Borough were built during the Iron Age (Patterson,
is a lack of hard evidence from the 6th Century BC
until the emergence of reliable historical records in the first
millennium. Many of the historical gaps for this period are now
filled with competing romantic theories from both the Irish and
Ulster nationalist camps.
a more realistic perspective, the Bronze and Iron Age artefacts
from 200 BC onwards show that Ireland was subject to a series of
incursions by the Celts. These Celts were a cultural group and
not genetically different from the early settlers. One of the
final incursions into Ireland introduced the Gaelic culture and
Although the indigenous population absorbed and accepted
the Celtic and Gaelic cultures there are no genetic markers that
differentiate the emerging Gaelic people of Ireland from either
the Scots or the English. These three groups also share their
genes with Cambro-Norman and Scandinavian stock.
of these Gaelic additions, many social groups in Ireland, such as
the population of Castleroe in the Republic, have retained 95 per
cent of the genetic makeup of the much earlier settlers from the
Iberian Peninsula (Oppenheimer, p375 – 378).
these waves of Celtic and Gaelic influence, the province of
Ulster managed to remain relatively isolated.
dominant groups in 5th Century Ulster were the Celtic Ulaid and the pre-Celtic Cruthin.
This isolation was, in part, maintained by the 200 BC
defensive structure called the Black Pig's Dyke. It ran for 150
miles along the southern border of Ulster from Newry, County Down
in the east to the County Donegal coast in the west.
The Ulster inhabitants built this
structure in order to reinforce the natural defences created by
the bogs, waterways, hills and forests. The structure was at
least 3m high and 2.5m wide in parts and topped off with a wooden
The Black Pig’s Dyke may have had
an important role to play in protecting Ulster’s cattle stock
and land from southern marauders. In Irish society cattle were a
symbol of individual wealth. Rustling, feuding and small scale
raiding between the kingdoms rather than large-scale battles was
the normal mode of warfare.
In these early years Ireland had never been united and
never had a centralised government. It was always a loose
association of perhaps 150 feuding and competing dynasties.
Gaelic Ui Neill (O’Neill)
winning the Battle of Ocha in AD 483 the Gaelic Ui Neill groups
(later anglicised as the O’Neills) moved north towards Ulster.
Initially the pre-Celtic Cruthin and the Celtic Ulaid alliance
managed to resist the O’Neills’ advance.
the alliance retreated to the northeast and held the ground of
the Dal Riata dynasty, now known as County Antrim and County
Down. Some of these pre-Gaelic dynasties fled to Scotland and
settled in the Argyll area.
In AD 637 at the Battle of Mag Roth (Moira) the O’Neills killed the King of the Dal Riata and conquered most of the land of the last pre-Gaelic dynasties. By the 6th Century AD the O’Neill dynasty had transformed the whole island of Ireland. Gaelic became the spoken and written language throughout most of Ireland. All this was achieved to the detriment of the ancient cultural and oral traditions of the indigenous Irish population now isolated in the north east of Ulster.
Norwegian Vikings raided Coleraine in AD 725 (Henry, p21) and
burned down St Patrick’s church. These Viking raids were
usually hit-and-run incidents (Foster, p31) and very difficult to
counter. The Viking raids stopped around AD 950. Their main
contribution to Irish society was to introduce the concept of
town dwelling. There are many Viking settlements on the east
coast, including Dublin and Waterford.
next notable incursion into Ulster occurred in 1177 when the
Norman baron and mercenary, John de Courcy conquered the
northwest. The surviving pre-Gaelic Ulster dynasties made an
alliance with de Courcy in order to oppose the continued threat
from the O’Neills. Hugh de Lacy followed on and founded the
Earldom of Ulster.
The Normans were responsible for building fortifications at Mountsandel Mount and also the fort at Ballycairn opposite the Council Offices. The Mountsandel fort was also designed to protect the ford across the River Bann at that point (Patterson, 2007)
1315 Edward Bruce of Scotland started his invasion of Ulster at
the port of Larne. Six thousand Scottish mercenaries, called the
Gallowglasses, accompanied him.
two years the last of Ulster’s pre-Gaelic dynasties had finally
been defeated and the O’Neills established Gaelic control of
Ulster for the next 300 years.
At no time did the Gaelic dynasties establish total control of the whole island. Dublin and the surrounding territory called The Pale and other small pockets of territory remained under the control of the Anglo-Normans.
The Nine Years War
the late 1530s Henry VIII and then Elizabeth I made a concerted
effort to re-conquer the whole of Ireland and bring it under the
control of the English Crown. By the late 1590s this plan was
still in progress when O’Neill, the last of the Gaelic
chieftains, had reinforced his Irish army with Scottish and Irish
mercenaries and started a series of successful battles against
the English in Ireland.
Phillip II of Spain promised to support O’Neill when the
rebellion was launched. That did happen in 1598 and despite the
initial victories O’Neill was forced to surrender at Mellifont
in 1603. That episode ended the O’Neills’ 300-year domination
The war led to the death of many native Irish and also stripped the land of livestock and crops. But the native Irish lost their barren land when the English decided to strip them of all their property rights.
As part of the settlement the Irish chieftains involved in the O’Neill rebellion had to surrender all their territories to the English Crown. The territory was then re-granted to the chieftains. But they found themselves in a very vulnerable position. The chieftains had been given the territory but not the status they formerly exercised. They were subservient to the monarch and had no formal control over the minor chieftains.
In the early 1600s the English administration began to exert their cultural influence in Ulster. The Scottish and English settler displaced the Irish landowner and an English standing army was permanently garrisoned throughout Ireland to protect the new territorial gains. The English also replaced the loose association of feudal dynasties with a strong centralized government, the barter economy with the market economy and introduced the advanced farming practices that had helped England to cope with its expanding population. Anglican Ascendancy replaced Roman Catholicism and English began to replace the Gaelic language.
Flight of the Earls
position became even more precarious when a minor chieftain
called O’Cahan started a land dispute with him. Earl Hugh
O’Neill had granted O’Cahan some land that became known as
Tir-Cahan (O’Cahan’s land). The land extended from the west
bank of the river Bann to Lough Foyle and south to the Sperrin
It has been alleged that O’Cahan was aware of O’Neill’s plan for another insurrection in Ulster (Sampson, p207). In 1607, just after he was summonsed to London to settle O’Cahan’s land dispute, O’Neill deserted his people and fled along with his minor chiefs to the continent.
The Flight of the Earls gave the English Crown the excuse to confiscate the deserted ancestral homes of the O’Neill dynasty and the minor chieftains. This territory covered Cavan in Connaught and five of the nine counties of Ulster and included Donegal, Tyrone, Armagh, Fermanagh and O’Cahan’s land. The Crown then planned to plant English and Scottish settlers on the confiscated land. This process became known as the Plantation of Ulster.
Plantation of Ulster
main purpose of settling English and Scottish Protestants in
Ulster was to enforce the English form of centralized
governmental control of Ireland. The Plantation was also designed
to prevent France from using Ireland as a back door into England
and prevent Spain from forming a strong alliance with the Irish.
Finally, the Plantation was used to shift the lowland Scots from
Scotland where the land could no longer support a growing
population that was increasingly turning to a life of thievery
and marauding. The rich natural resources of Ulster would support
the Scots and could also be exploited for the benefit of the
The Plantation did achieve these short-term objectives but failed in the long-term. The settlers did not ruthlessly destroy the indigenous people as had happened to the pre-Gaelic dynasties of Ulster, the tribes of native Americans, the Carib of St Kitts and the native Tasmanians. Neither did they attempt to absorb or accommodate the native Irish. The island of Ireland was now set for long-term dissent and insurrection. The defensive formation of the settler communities and the continual unrest led to the infamous ‘siege mentality’ of the Protestants that would adversely influence every political and social judgment in the future.
Antrim, Down and Monaghan
In 1606 English and Lowland Scots settled in the two counties of Antrim and Down in a private enterprise. That Plantation was organised by two Scots called Montgomery and Hamilton. The County of Monaghan was also excluded from the Londoners’ plans.
Armagh, Cavan, Fermanagh, Tyrone and Donegal
four Ulster counties of Armagh, Fermanagh, Tyrone, Donegal as
well as Cavan from the province of Connaught were granted to four
different groups. First choice went to the chief tenants or
Undertakers who were responsible for settling their English and
Scottish sub-tenants on their granted lands. The main preference
was for the inland Scots because the Western Isle Scots had
settled in Antrim and the Lowland Scots had settled in Down.
Second choice was the Servitors, former soldiers and administration staff who had served the Crown. They were permitted to take on Irish native tenants because they had learned how to deal with them in previous experiences. The Irish native freeholders who were not involved in the rebellion received up to twenty-five percent of the land. The church was granted a smaller portion.
sixth county was originally known as Coleraine. That name was
eventually changed to the County of Londonderry and was settled
in a different manner. O’Cahans Land was bounded on the west by
the River Foyle and the Liberties surrounding Londonderry that
extended into County Donegal. The southern boundary was provided
by the Sperrin Mountains and included the barony of Loughinsolin,
County Tyrone. The eastern boundary was the River Bann and
included the Liberties of Coleraine town that extended into
County Antrim for three Irish miles. Then in 1666, King Charles
II’s charter confirmed that all the waters of Lough Foyle were
included in County Londonderry. Before the year 1700 the
victorious Williamite and Cromwellian armies would confiscate
more of the land belonging to the native Irish throughout